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Business Development Authentic Selves

Leading with Our Authentic Selves

By Ashley Nicholson ....April 19, 2023

There has been a seismic shift in the post-pandemic world for most people: working from home has blurred the lines between our professional and personal lives, resulting in employees and clients demanding more authenticity at work.

As we recalibrate the values in many of our lives—both personal and professional—at the root of it all is the driving need for more authenticity. But what does it mean to be authentic and how can we harness it to improve our business practices?


Authenticity is defined as being “true to our own personality, spirit, or character.” Dr. Brene Brown, a researcher and lecturer focused on vulnerability and shame, reminds us that authenticity is “a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” 

To be authentic, we have to know who we are and have the courage to embrace it by standing firm in our personal ethics and beliefs. We need to maintain rich and engaging lives both at work and outside of work—involving passion, family, and deep connective friendships.


When you strip everything else away, business is about human to human connections. After the post-pandemic industry shifts, it feels wrong to continue following traditional rules of professionalism—only talking about work with colleagues, not mentioning our family or personal lives, resisting helping a competitor because of expectations or presenting an alternate persona at work.

It’s time to break the cycle and celebrate authenticity in business. Here are some ways to embrace your authentic self at work and start fostering business relationships built on trust and personal connection

  1. Start practicing! Authentic doesn’t mean static—work on incorporating values and skills you feel are lacking until they become natural. Clients can spot a fake, so there’s no point in putting on a show. Instead, make your authentic self the best version of yourself.
  2. Personally engage with your colleagues and clients. It can feel vulnerable to be truly seen, but it’s better to embrace your authentic self than try to hide it. Connect with others over your nerdy hobbies, travel dreams, or foody ambitions. Go beyond small talk and show that you care deeply about creating real relationships with clients. Letting them see your authentic self will help foster trust and credibility.
  3. Prioritize listening to the client’s thoughts, concerns, and feelings. People crave authentic relationships where they can truly trust each other, and feeling heard is key. What problems are they facing? How can you be the solution? Most importantly, be honest if you can’t. Maybe your company’s products or services are not the best fit this time around, but your honesty and authenticity will help foster trust. Remember to focus less on your pitch and more on their needs, but be transparent and firm about your values. Let them see your real strengths.
  4. Develop an authentic social media footprint. In order to have true engagement and grow your following, you have to be authentic and relevant. Don’t be so worried about playing it safe that you overthink every post instead of embracing your authentic voice.
  5. Continue to learn about strengthening emotional intelligence and embracing your best authentic self. Investing in personal and professional development will not only set you up for success at work, it will help you feel more engaged and authentic in daily interactions. If you’ve never been formally trained in Business Development, check out BD Essentials which will give you essential customer engagement skills. If you’re a seasoned professional, level up with BD Masterclass.
  1. Be authentic, but don’t overshare—especially very personal things.
    If you choose to have personal social media accounts, ensure they are private or under pseudonyms. Make sure that your online footprint remains professional. Work on being authentic while also being intentional; editing out controversial opinions or moments of severe insecurity can help you maintain a professional presence while still allowing you to show the world how your personality and strengths could be a valuable asset in the office.
  2. Avoid hot button topics (politics, sex, religion, etc.) to not inadvertently alienate or upset a client.
    With diversity comes diverse viewpoints. At the same time, don’t waver on your ethics and standards in order to agree with a client; faking agreement may come across as disingenuous and could affect future relations with the client.
  3. Do not drink too much with colleagues or clients.
    Even when being authentic, we rely on filters to help keep us professional. Don’t put yourself in a position where your lack of filter could harm future opportunities.
  4. Avoid sloppy dress.
    We all have our own preferences, so embrace your individual style; even when dressing casually, you can look polished. For example, layer a blazer over jeans with nicer shoes. This is not about formality, but about self-respect. Again: you want to be yourself, but your best self.
  5. Do not forget the importance of reliability, accountability, and competence with a client.
    Being authentic is important, but not as important as having credibility and discipline.

It can feel like an impossibly complex dance between wanting to be authentic and maintaining a professional image in front of clients and colleagues, but a balance can be struck. Hopefully these tips have given you a good starting place.


Ashley Nicholson Guest Author at Hi-Q Group

Ashley Nicholson is the CEO of Avenir Technology, a woman-owned small business that offers business development, management consulting, and technology consulting services. She formerly worked as a director of business development at CALIBRE Systems and Cognosante, and has over a decade of experience in business development in federal government contracting. She specializes in healthcare technology in the federal civilian space and holds a master of arts in international relations from Webster University. Ashley is currently pursuing a master of data analytics at the Georgia Institute of Technology and is an active member of AFCEA, ACT-IAC and Women in Technology.

These views are my own and do not reflect the views of my company or any organizations in which I participate. Follow me on LinkedIn for more insights.


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